By Steve Morris

Spoilers below, of course: we’re talking about the last issue of the run!

Writer Brian Azzarello stated that his Vertigo series with Eduardo Risso, 100 Bullets, would run for 100 issues. By several accounts that number was pulled out of the air a little, but it was a promise he was able to honour, with the series concluding on its centenary issue. In the grand finale all the surviving characters descend upon the villa of master antagonist Augustus Medici, leading to a high body count and life changing decisions for all involved. It’s technically an excellent issue, with audacious storytelling from a creative team who never take their hands off the throttle as thing barrel along to an explosive finish.

Yet there’s something slightly unsatisfying about the whole thing, despite each character’s fate ultimately making sense and paying off the past ninety-nine issues of story. For example, we see Graves finally pick up a gun and shoot the person he views as being responsible for all the problems in his life, directly matching the choice he’s offered so many people before. And elsewhere, we see characters live, die, and suffer the consequences of their actions in ironic, smart, and fitting ways.  Throughout, the final issue finds a way to wrap things up which make perfect sense for each character, and pays off their long-term character arcs.

So why is there something frustratingly just not quite there about the final issue?

Brian Azzarello has said that he had the final page of the series in mind for a long time before he needed to type it into existence, but this isn’t a How I Met Your Mother situation where the long-term planning of the creators turned out to be the problem. The ending doesn’t feel like a regression of the core themes of the series, and the characters don’t have to form an abrupt u-turn in order to fit into the clockwork mechanism of the final page. My feeling is instead that the missing element from the issue is Dizzy Cordova herself, the first protagonist the series gave us and the absent perspective from the finale. We don’t get her story when we need it most.

Through a long-running series which has seen a lot of very nasty people rise up and burn away, Dizzy was our clear route through the grisly, nasty business of murder which pushed the plot forward from the “would you take revenge on the person who wronged you” conceit and into a wider postmodern noir tale with labyrinthine connections between the huge cast of characters. When things got confusing or too wrapped up inside itself, Dizzy was our point of view. The series starts and ends with her: yet the final issue leaves her standing on an upstairs landing for a very long time, while the other characters get on with their business instead. The finale forgets her for too long.

There’s a moment in this last issue where Dizzy and Megan discuss the man they both apparently may have loved, Benito. It’s the last moment either of these propulsive, engaging characters really get in the issue, despite coming only halfway through the page count. Megan spends the rest of the issue cowering in fear as she’s doused in petrol and threatened by a man with a lighter, with barely another word balloon until the lighter inevitably gets dropped and she goes up in flames. Given Megan’s status as one of the primary antagonists of the entire series, it seems strange for her to be pushed into a secondary role to Augustus and Graves. And yet that’s how the issue chooses to proceed.

Megan’s long-term arc has seen her scheme to increasing power, but by the end she doesn’t even get the chance to negotiate terms for her life. Arguably that could be the point, the way that her story ends, and her inability to have one last escape plan is what leads to her death. Yet it doesn’t feel satisfying if that’s the case, especially as her death is an accident: Cole, who has the lighter, drops it by accident when a gun goes off in the other room and startles him. Megan graphically sets on fire and the room explodes, the impact knocking Dizzy off the landing and into the ground floor, where she seems to be left paralysed by the fall. Both women end the series as victim to a shot which Graves fires, rather than through any of their own action.

As a series looking at the shift from one generation to another, 100 Bullets decides (probably very accurately) that the older generation will never cede power to their children. Augustus arranges for his own son to be killed, which is why Graves shoots him. That’s a moral line which Graves could never accept, especially as he is genuine in his wish to groom a new generation of Minutemen. That generation includes both Dizzy and Loop, who makes the choice in this issue to bail on the entire endeavour. It’s again a powerful choice which isn’t wholly told by the creative team, but the few panels he has shows Loop’s storyline close out in the smartest way it could. 

Loop doesn’t get far into the Medici Compound during the assault which makes up the majority of the issue, as after killing a few guards he realises this whole thing feels hollow and pointless to him. That’s in contrast to his father, who spent his life wanting to be a Minuteman, but held back by societal racism which wouldn’t allow him to be anything other than a sidekick, an assistant, a middleman. Loop gets the chance his father was never offered, but decides that he doesn’t want to live that life. When offered the gun, he makes the choice to turn it down. The reward is his life.

By contrast, Dizzy’s last act in the issue is to pick up the gun and point it directly at Graves’ head. In a final page which mirrors Michelangelo’s Pietà, she concludes his arc for him. He still tries to rationalise what he did as necessary and a moral requirement: Augustus forced Graves into this life, and made him spend his time handing an untraceable gun to people with a grudge. But, Dizzy, explains, Graves was never forced into anything. Just like everyone else, he chose to pick up the case. He concedes that she’s right, and readers are left to conclude whether they think she shoots him for that choice – which in turn will result in her death in the burning building – or spares both their lives.

It’s a strong final page, which gives Dizzy the final action of the entire series, even if we never see what it may be. Yet given she starts off the issue with her love interest dying, is then appointed as leader of the Minutemen, and then sees everyone die around her… we never hear from her about anything. Her narrative is lost in the fires of Medici Manor, and the final issue loses its key voice just as everything explodes. That, to me, is why the last issue of 100 Bullets doesn’t quite fire, technically sound though it is.


100 Bullets #100: “A House of Graves”
Written by Brian Azzarello
Drawn by Eduardo Risso
Coloured by Patricia Mulvihill
Lettered by Clem Robins


Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.


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